We take a risk each time we swipe our credit or debit cards, whether we're using them to pick up bread and milk at a small grocer or buying all of our holiday gifts at one of the largest merchandise retail chains in the country. If you used your card to shop at a Target store anytime between November 27 and December 15, you need to be aware of this breaking news: the retail giant has announced that about 40 million customers may have been affected by a data breach that occurred just as the holiday shopping season took off. Here's what you need to know about the data breach and how you can protect yourself.
According to authorities, cybercriminals were able to install software at nearly every Target store in the nation that lifted our information when we swiped our cards while checking out. As a result, there is a possibility they could create counterfeit cards or use our pin numbers to withdraw money from our debit accounts.
Scary stuff, but it helps to know that everyone involved is taking this very seriously. Target has hired a forensic team to investigate the breach and says it immediately called authorities, credit card companies, and banks. The store also claims it has fixed the problem and it is safe to shop at Target stores. The breach did not affect online purchases, according to the store.
If you are an American Express or Discover card holder, the good news is that reps from both companies say fraud controls are in place. No comments have been issued yet from MasterCard or Visa.
There's absolutely no need to feel like you have to wait around like a victim until you hear more news. Here are some ways you can protect yourself right now if you suspect you are one of the many customers affected by this:
1. Change your debit card pin number.
2. Carefully review your credit card transactions and report anything that looks suspicious to both your credit card provider and Target at 866-852-8680.
3. As much of a hassle as this can be, cancel your card and get a new one if you really want peace of mind.
5. Don't fall prey to scammers who may try to take advantage of this news in upcoming weeks.
Are you concerned that this breach of data could have affected you?
Image via Philip Taylor/Flickr